March 7, 2019
Given the increased media coverage of the Momo Challenge, I decided to stray from my series this week. Unfortunately, the Momo Challenge is not new to scene in the disturbing trend of self-harm games. It has been of concern for mental health professionals and educators for some time. For awhile, many dismissed it because Snopes asserted that allegations of its existence were false.
As an administrator, I need to navigate a fine line between ensuring my community is informed and contributing to the hype. I find this to be one of my greatest challenges. I know that knowledge is power. I also understand that communication provides opportunity for understanding and decision making. I also acknowledge that communicating creates its own challenges.
As parents, you, too, face the challenge I do. As I contemplated my post for this week, I reflected on the communication Paul and I have with Maddy and Hunter. I remember when I first realized Maddy worried. She was three. She worried about everything.
Hunter followed suit with worry. I began to realize that I modeled that worry. Paul and I both committed to find ways to reduce the worry within both of our children. I committed to journaling each night so that I could release my worries. We determined that we would protect them from things that were “Too big for their suitcase.”
The imagery of the suitcase provided both Maddy and Hunter with a reference to understand. We introduced the concept after a family trip to Disneyland. Hunter was almost 5 at time. After yet another all consuming episode of worry, we shared our analogy.
We asked them to reflect on who carried the suitcases for our trip. They responded simultaneously that Paul and I did. Paul explained that it was because the suitcases were too heavy for each of them. We went on to share that just like their Disneyland suitcase was too heavy, sometimes when we worry about things it makes our pretend suitcase too heavy.
From that point on, whenever we faced challenges or topics of concern and we saw worry in either one or both of them, we told them that we would carry their worry in our suitcase so that theirs would be lighter. If they discovered us talking in private and inquired as to the topic, if it was a topic that could create worry, we simply said, “It’s too big for your suitcase.” Those 5 words provided them freedom and relief.
The “Breaking News” of the Momo Challenge created angst for parents everywhere. Many parents paused and questioned whether the YouTube use by their child exposed them to the horrors of this game. Others worried that their children found themselves exposed by friends or peers. Still others worried that despite all of their best efforts to protect their children from this evil, their children were exposed unknowingly.
No doubt, discussions occurred in homes across the country. But to what end? Did the discussion empower change or increase curiosity? Did the discussion provide guidance or give unnecessary information?
As we navigate the heartbreak of social media at younger and younger ages, I challenge us to consider whether our children need to be engaged in the conversation. Do we really need to fill their suitcase with the worries of adults? Do we consider that by filling their suitcases with heavy topics they have to unpack their suitcase? Are they unpacking it around other children who need a light suitcase?
I encourage you to reflect on this. Have you ever carried a suitcase so heavy through the airport you wondered if you left any clothes at home? When it’s finally unpacked and light again isn’t it amazing? How heavy do we want our children’s suitcases to be?
Honored to Serve You All,